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tv   1967 Detroit Riots  CSPAN  January 1, 2018 3:40pm-5:41pm EST

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rioting erupted in detroit, sparked by a police raid on an illegal bar and fuelled by long-simmering tensions over racism and segregation. earlier today, american history tv was live from detroit to look back 50 years. our guests joined us at the detroit free press newsroom to talk about what happened and why and to answer viewer questions. this is about two hours. >> you're watching american history tv on c-span 3. 50 years ago today, riots erupted in the city of detroit, sparked by a police raid on an illegal bar known locally as a blind pig. when it was over, five days later, 43 people were dead and 7,000 had been arrested. president lyndon b. johnson sent in 5,000 federal troops. the affected areas of detroit still bear the scars of those riots today. abandoned or decaying buildings.
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there are lingering questions about how far detroit has come in a half century in addressing the issues that led to the rioting. we are here at the detroit free press where it won a pulitzer prize for its 1967 riot coverage. we're joined by heather ann thompson and detroit free press page editor steve henderson. we'll be live for the next two hours taking your calls, tweets and facebook posts. can we start with the definitions in the sense that the events that took place 50 years ago described as a riot. >> i would say it's absolutely not a riot. because that term connotes chaos and it suggests that everyone just showed up and destroyed the city for no reason. it also suggested how we should understand what happened and what the impact of it was. we prefer to think about it like
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a rebellion. because all of the energy and anger and activism that went into that moment had long been predicted. people had been begging for some remedy, for the housing discrimination. the police brutality. the economic discrimination. that frustration cannot be understood as just chaotic and incoharant. it was a rebellion. >> stephen henderson. >> the word i've come to over time is uprising. which i think captures all of the things that were going on that week. if you think about what heather's talking about, the things that had been going on for decades here in detroit to marginalize and oppress african-american people, destroy african-american communities even. that was the build-up to what happened in 1967. the flash point was a pushback specifically against police aggression, police brutality. but you also had lots of other
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kinds of pushback. the people who were in the streets looting stores were pushing back against the economic oppression that was taking place. so i think an uprising really captures all of that in a way that doesn't dismiss it. one of the things i think is true is language has real power in our culture. and the word riot was used to dismiss all of those things after what happened happened. it was used to say ignore this. don't worry about the things that are behind this. we've taken care of it with police response and we'll just move on. >> so as well, also set this event in the national context. what else was going on in 1967 across the country, particularly as other areas of the nation were suffering the same kind of riots or uprising or however you want to describe it? >> i think there are common themes in all of the cities that see this.
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newark was just i think 11 days before detroit. los angeles was i think a few years later, or weeks later. you had this sort of moment partially fueled i think by the questions asked by the civil rights movement. i mean, this was a time when african-americans were no longer just sitting back and saying we'll wait for equality, we'll wait for justice, we want it and we want it now. at the same time, realizing how far they were from that realization and that there was this real effort to deny them that. still systemically. and so you see this sort of outbreak happen in cities across the country. all i think in that same -- that same context. >> beginning in 1964, philadelphia erupts, rochester, new york, erupts. harlem erupts. and it was all for the same reason. it was that sustained critique
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of police activity in the black community overwhelmingly and the sustained critique of we've passed all the civil rights legislation. we've made it right legally. why is there still such disparity in income and lifestyle in general? this is -- in some respects, detroit's the culmination of of what had been a decade of saying, you know, we're not going to ask anymore, we're going to demand. >> if you want to call on the phone lines it's 202-748-8900. 208-748-8901 for the pacific and mountain time zones. if you lived during what happened in 1967, we invite you to call as well. 202-748-8902. tweet us or post on our facebook page at facebook.com/cspanhistory. let's go specifically back to 50 years ago today. put in context specifically what happened on that day.
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>> well, specifically, it was a night like many other nights. it was a night where folks in the black community, in this case, at an afterhours drinking establishment at 12th and claremont were having a party, having a get-together, and it was raided by theroutinely. people were routinely pulled over. thrown up against cars. stopped. frisked. in this particular instance, it just touched a nerve. this particular community i think had experienced a lot of that aggressive policing more than even others. and so it was just like a match to kindling. >> and so at blind pig as it was known. why was it known by that way? >> blind pig is a term we used to use in detroit to talk about afterhours bars because the pigs were -- the pigs, the cop, were often blind to them. in other words, they went on, everyone knew that they were there but they often avoided the
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gaze of police officers. >> and the celebration was about a couple of folks back from vietnam. they were celebrating. early morning hours. police come. police are being taken out. what specifically happened then? >> i mean, i think there's a conflict between the people inside the bar and police. i think history shows that this was planned by the police. i mean, they were there to show some force and to be particularly aggressive. it spills out into the street as they are trying to get people in the paddy wagons. they're arresting a large number of people out of this establishment. there are other people out in the streets who see this and start to react, start to ask questions, start to say, you know, this is not right, we're tired of this. >> their concerned what's going to happen to these guys who are arrested. >> that's right. >> because the long history of arrest was not simply someone got arrested, locked up, tried and, you know, charged or issued
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a ticket. people ended up beaten up on the way to the police station. >> that's right. >> people ended up harmed. >> yes. >> there was a history of people being severely injured. so people's concern about so many arrests was not just frustration, it was a genuine concern for what they -- people knew to be true. >> yes, and then police just lose control. i mean, there are more people then there are officers at some point and they just cannot control what's going on. >> if you go to the detroit free press this morning, by the way, on its headline of its coverage, you'll see on its front page, we got trouble. that statement from the police chief at the time talking to the mayor. talk about the mayor's role. when he put the police in action, how he came about to do that. >> so the mayor at that point is jerome cavanaugh who is in our history both this very hopeful figure, hopeful political figure, elected with great promise in the early 1960s,
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around the same time as john kennedy, who -- there are often comparisons drawn between the two of them in their early careers. but also as a pretty dark figure in our history for the things he ignored that were brewing as he was mayor in the run-up to 1967 and of course the way he handles this. it catches him by surprise in a way that it should not have. >> exactly. >> he was warned many times about the things that were going on inside the police department with regard to the community and in the community with regard to the kinds of segregation and discrimination that was going on in the city. he kept saying i think we're going to avoid the things we're seeing other places. it was really naive of him at best. but his response is to let this police department loose, really, on the community, and that i think is not only what leads to this massive confrontation over
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the next few days but it leads to the end of his political career. i mean it really ends jerome cavanaugh. >> we hear about the starting at 12th and claremont but how far does it spread acreage in detroit, and why do you think that happened? >> well, i mean, it just spreads and spreads. but again, the only explanation is to understand that that prehistory. you know, even cavenaugh, you know, steven's right, he should have known. because his own police commissioner, someone he had appointed to basically remedy this problem of police brutality, george edwards, quits. because he says, this police department, whatever, 90% is so bigoted it's irreformable. so every neighborhood that kind of hears the story, and of course the rumors spread. and of course, law enforcement is shooting out lights and so people are fearful and it's chaotic. so that kind of spreading was also inevitable. because of the way the policing
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actually operated after that initial confrontation. imagine a city where there's no lights. fires are burning. people are armed. and then there's this rumor of sniping. even though there's no evidence in retrospect that this is what was going on, sniping becomes the excuse to continue shooting at people. you know, fatally wounding them, but also giving them lifelong physical damage. >> but it's also just a license for the really bad actors inside the department to go do the things that they had been doing, you know, so far as sort of under the cover of darkness, they're doing it in broad daylight now. and they're doing it just wantonly. there are people wandering the streets shooting into houses because they say, well, someone's inside and i need to take care of that. ike mckinnon, who is later a
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police chief here in the city, was a patrolman at that time. one of the few black patrolmen in detroit. he is accosted by two other officers who say they want to kill him. i mean, it really escalates to a point where there just is no rationale for the behavior that the police are undertaking. and that makes everything worse. i mean, that fuels what goes on for the next few days. >> ike mckinnon will join in about an hour to give us his context and his experience. our two guests here again for your questions. 202-748-8901 for those in the mountain and pacific time zones. in detroit 202-748-8902. we will start our calls today with david who lives in detroit, michigan. thank you for calling. you're on with our guests. go ahead. >> caller: it's good to see you this morning.
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and i have a question first, then i have a comment. my question to dr. heather is, dr. heather, they're going to be releasing a new movie called "detroit." can you speak to the accuracy or if there's going to be much in the way of accuracy historically with this movie? and then secondly, i'd like to just kind of reflect for a moment with regard to the '67 riot, because we live on vinewood and grand river. and i was 7 years old. and i just remember how it rolled out. i remember hearing the sirens and everybody was startled. and then you saw the billowing black smoke that came up. and i imagine that must have been from cunningham's that was on the corner. and subsequently, real quick -- again, i'm 7 years old so this
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would have been probably maybe a day after or a couple of days. but i ventured up there. and i caught myself going into one of the gutted stores and grabbing a pair of shoes, that didn't fit me as i recall. but i just wanted to reflect that, because it seems as though it was just yesterday. and it's just surreal. so yeah, that's my comment. but dr. heather, if you could answer that in terms of the historical accuracy of this new movie that's coming out. thank you. >> david, thank you so much. >> first i want to say, thank you so much for telling that story, because one of the things that it really shows is that even the so-called looting, i mean, people were getting very practical things that they needed, often, right? shoes or clothes or food. and that's often missed when we talk about this just as a riot. back to our reference to terminology. as for the film, i mean -- i think everyone's going to have -- everyone who experienced
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it is going to have to decide whether they feel that it captured the algiers motel murders accurately. i know that there's an incredible historian, danielle mcguire, she's doing a whole book on this and i look forward to get the real nitty gritty of what happened. but for now what i've heard is that the film really does capture the most important thing i think about algiers, which was the extraordinary level of violence that was directed against young people, particularly young black kids. and the way in which nobody was held accountable for that kind of violence. and so i think if nothing else, if the film captures that, then it does a service to what that experience was. >> some context to the algiers incident, if you don't mind? >> yeah, this is something that happens during the uprising, a group of african-american teens are in the algiers motel in the city with some white teens. and there's -- i don't remember exactly what the reason was that
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the police show up, but over several hours it escalates to the point where they kill some of these black kids. and there's never a good reason for that killing. there's never an explanation. and as heather points out, they're never held to account for it. no one's ever brought to justice for it. >> yeah, and to be clear, i mean, these are kids who basically were in this hotel because there's so much chaos in the streets, their parents say -- >> hide is. >> three of these kids were musicians, they had just come from performing a gig, the parents say, don't come home, it's too crazy, stop in this hotel so you'll be safe. the police show up under this rumor of a sniper and for hours these kids are beaten and tortured and the officers play russian roulette with them. three of these teenagers end up dead. so at least i think the movie captures that. and that's critically important because that's a microcosm of the reason why the city erupted in the first place.
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>> let's hear from philip in las vegas, go ahead. philip in las vegas, are you there? i think we lost him. steven henderson -- >> >> caller: hello? >> he talked a little -- philip, are you there? go ahead. >> caller: yes, can you hear me? >> yes, go right ahead, you're on. >> caller: can you hear me? >> go ahead, you're on. >> caller: i'm a christian want and i want to say i'm born and raised here in america and i love america. i don't love the way some of the people have ran it. i want to also emphasize on everything that you all are on. it starts with, remember, we the only people brought over here at gun point. you know, the marco polo stick is the reason why slavery is brought about. second of all, you have to remember that we worked for free and didn't get a dime. when lincoln supposedly set us free, that was because of the
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middle class and most nonblacks at that time didn't have any work. and they became employed after slavery. and then we had no work at all. now from that point, we did not receive what we were supposed to get. we were denied, like the indians to get a treaty, to have a conversation, there were senators and congressmen who stood up and fought and said african-americans were too ignorant to be able to discuss a treaty or whatever. and so we have whatever -- >> philip, thank you. we got your point and steven henderson, to the economic question that he brought up, going back further in history. but for the average black person in detroit, what was it like economically? >> well, i mean, there were a couple of things going on. one that is you did have this emerging black middle class in
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detroit. and my family, my mother's family, is in fact part of that black middle class living in russell woods just off of dexter avenue which is one of the flash points of the uprising. one of the places, commercial strips, that's really hit hard. you had an emerging black political class in the city. people being elected to city council and congress. and -- but at the same time you've got this underclass that is being pushed further and further behind. and further and further marginalized. the area around 12th and clairmont had become an african-american sort of neighborhood because one of the other sort of prime african-american neighborhoods in the city had been destroyed. they had nowhere else to go. and the opportunity that they could see not only white detroiters enjoying but they started to see other african-american detroiters
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enjoying was a real source of tension. and i mean, i think there was no question that people understood that if you were african-american, your chances of moving ahead were just very, very slim. and the deck was stacked against you. >> heather townsend? >> yeah, completely agree. incidentally, i think that's why it's so important we're commemorating this at 50 years. because you know, detroit is now the comeback city. detroit is now doing lots of gentrification again, much like the slum clearance of yesteryear that eradicated the black bottom area of the city that pushed people out of their homes, made people homeless. we have this opportunity to consider or at least consider, how did things go so wrong the first time? people don't realize that detroit was the model city in 1967. it was the apple of washington's eye.
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johnson, shriver, they all said detroit, this is the best, this is it. this is the best that we've accomplished. and then it goes up in flames and everyone's surprised. well, i think that's a real lesson for us today, right? detroit's coming back but is it going to come back for everybody? or just for the middle class and just for rich white folks that can move in the city? >> a bit about our guest, heather ann thompson is a professor at the university of michigan ann arbor where she teaches afro american and african studies. steven henderson with "the detroit free press," their editorial page editor, won a 2014 pulitzer prize for commentary. heather ann thompson winning a pulitzer prize for her book. the author of "whose detroit." let's go to janet in east lansing, michigan, hi. >> caller: hi, this is janet. i wanted to draw a verbal picture of what it was like to
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be in the city when everything blew up. i was on the northwest side of the city, four blocks west of green field. people who know the city will know that's a major north-south artery of the city on the northwest side. and i was visiting my parents who still lived in the house i grew up in. and got a phone call from a friend who lived much closer to where everything was burning already. and she said, you better get home. we lived up in the lansing area, about 90 miles away. so my husband and i said, what's going on? nothing was on tv, nothing was on the radio, nothing. and so she said, well, some kind of riot's going on, you better get out of there. and i said, well, you know -- what are you seeing what are you hearing? she said, i'm hearing a lot of gunshots. i said, okay, bye-bye.
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got in the car and drove back all the way back to lansing. remember, 90 miles. we saw nothing but army vehicles. not tanks, but trucks full of soldiers with weapons and helmets and overhead helicopters and everything was going into the city. from all directions. so they were coming in from the army bases in lansing and you name it. you know, 100-mile radius around the city coming in. and this was my first experience of what it's like to live in a city or a country where martial law takes over. it is absolutely -- >> janet, thank you for the call. and thank you for the perspective. steven henderson, she's referring to governor romney's decision about the national guard, put that in context for us. >> so the dpd is overmatched almost immediately because of
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this incident. there's debate in lancing about what to do. romney does eventually say, we've got to bring in the national guard. that actually makes things much worse. the national guard troops they bring are not remotely prepared for what they are encountering in detroit. and most of them are not experienced in any sort of urban area at all. and there's lots of stories of the kind of racial tension that they heightened with their behavior. once the federal troops arrive, which is later, that actually has a better i think effect than the guard did. the guard i think was responsible for a lot of the escalation in those sort of early days of the uprising. >> and including one who's killed by a fellow guardsman. i mean, it so is chaotic with the shooting. and anyone is a target. and so imagine a situation so
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chaotic that a fellow guardsman shoots -- they're shooting one another. >> they were scared. i mean, the guards troops they brought in were very young, very inexperienced. they had no idea what was going on. and they were frightened. and so when that happens, you get the kind of chaos that we saw. >> was this a quick decision by mayor cavenaugh to do this? >> no, i think there was real tension between he and governor romney over the idea of the guard coming in. and of course, you know, there's -- they're not -- neither of them i think is quite sure what it is they're dealing with. or the scale of what they're dealing with. i think in the early days there's a belief that maybe this will just, you know, subside on its own if we just sort of wait it out. >> and as far as lyndon baines johnson, how did he factor into all this when it came to national guard? >> well, i mean, real fence. romney has got to make some hard choices about whether he's going to bring in federal troops even. because it's essentially
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admitting that he's lost control of his city and his state. so this is a really tense moment. remember that detroit was again the apple of washington's eye. there's lots of funding coming into detroit via office of equal opportunity funding. all of this is in jeopardy. and what's really interesting, of course, is that because detroit was so important to the johnson administration, after this, johnson himself is a little shocked. he's a little stunned. and this is the first time we get calls for a federal study of what in the world is going on? notably, even though he calls for this, he does not take it ultimately seriously and he doesn't implement what the so-called kerner commission suggests was needed. but it really was that moment. detroit was the moment when everyone woke up. >> let's go to pierre, longview, texas, you're on with our guests. good afternoon. >> caller: good morning, how are you all? hello? can you hear me? >> you're on, pierre, go ahead. go ahead.
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>> caller: yeah, okay. yeah, i just wanted to say that this is an interesting story in that just to put this in perspective, i'm a third-generation free man, born in '69. in longview. my mother was born in '41. my grandfather was born in 1896 and slavery was abolished in what, 1865? >> '65. >> caller: 1865. so of course my great grandfather was a slave. so you know him growing up, having birthed a son in 1896, relate some of those slavery tendencies, the post-traumatic slave disorder to his son. my grandfather i'm sure relayed it to my mother, which is born in '41. and of course some of those rubbed off on me. and we can slip it on the other side.
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some of that -- i'm 48 years old. gone to med school and all. but to put this in perspective, we still have police brutality today. and should have those same -- some of the same apprehensions toward the other side, just like it was passed down to me from my mother and great grandfather, grandfather and great up and down father, that also was passed on the other side. some of the same ill will and same feelings. >> that's right. >> caller: i just wanted to say, put it in perspective that this is not too long ago. i mean, we're still -- >> exactly. >> caller: this uprising happened, what, '67. man, we're not that far. we're a couple of steps away from that. and we're still having that -- especially in dallas, texas. longview. i mean, there's so much stuff that's still going on. and we really need to sit down -- >> pierre, thank you. thank you very much for that. heather ann thompson? >> i mean, he could not have said it better. this is why it's so important
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that we pay attention to '67, the uprising, why we pay attention to why it happened, what its legacy was and wasn't. you know, it's not the uprising that destroyed the city, it was the response to it. and if we don't get that right, we are right on the precipice again. we're at a moment when folks are erupting. and you know, ferguson and baltimore and chicago and in dallas. and the reasons are the same. which is people want equal justice under the law. and frankly, things have gotten worse in many respects. we now have mass incarceration. we now have not just criminalized the community in certain moments and in certain instances, there's been entire swaths of the black community that have been criminalized and are in prison. if we don't pay attention to the past, we are sitting i think on a real powder keg. >> give us a snapshot of what the police force looked like in '67, what does it look like today. >> '67, it's basically an all-white police force. there are a few african-american
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officers who have been hired. but they don't amount to i don't think more than a couple percentage points. today it's a much more integrated force. it's not as integrated as the city is. you still have an imbalance there. but it is really different. we have had a series of african-american police chiefs dating back to, i don't know, early '70s, i guess. coleman young is elected. we also have a really different relationship between the police and the community here today than we did then. and that's one of the things that i think actually we can take some credit for here in the city. it's not that we don't have tensions. it's not that we don't have issues. but the relationship, the fundamental relationship between police and the community here looks a lot different than it does in a lot of other cities right now. >> and correct me, in the research i know going back to '67, you heard about these
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programs known as big 4, a program known as s.t.r.e.s.s. talk about that and talk about the effect it had on the african-american community. >> s.t.r.e.s.s. is very important. you mentioned this. when i said that it was not the uprising that destroyed the city, it was the response to it, rather than try to remedy what had caused this in the first place, what happened was the city doubled down on criminalizing the black community. so s.t.r.e.s.s. was an undercover decoy operation that essentially went around terrorizing folks in the community. way too many folks ended up dead before they ever made it to the booking room. and so again, this is this question of doubling down on law enforcement rather than trying to really deal with this question of police/community relations. the demographic profile of police so is important because oftentimes folks will say, if the police force is more black now, how can we still have a problem with police brutality, how can this still be about police brutality?
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i said we began a whole war on crime right after this, we doubled down on criminalization in general. by the time we get to the '90s, whether you ar black cop or a white cop, your job is to throw people up against police cars to see if they've got marijuana or heroin or crack or whatever. and that kind of tension still existed, right, even after police departments became more integrated. >> patricia? grand rapids, michigan, hi there, go ahead. >> caller: hi. i'm looking at your program. i grew up -- i was 12 years old when the riots started. and i grew up on clairmont between 14th and la salle. a block from where it began. and i was 12. but i remember it as if it was yesterday. that sunday morning, the tension, it just was like a wave
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that came through the city, the block. another thing i wanted to point out, i was 12. the lights. we didn't have electricity after that. in the evening, everybody came out on the porches. and i remember the tanks going down the street. and we were just -- we weren't used to it. we were alarmed by it. another point, there was durfy junior high school and central high school in the area. and that's where the national guard stationed themselves. i remember going up to the school and walking past the
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national guard. like i say, i was 12. i remember them propositioning us. my girlfriends and i. and we were young. and that just really just traumatized us. you know, these were white guardsmen. and, you know, we -- we didn't know how to deal with that. in fact, i don't even think we came home and mentioned it to our parents. >> caller, thank you so much for that story. steven hearder son, put it in context, particularly for those people who don't live here. >> yeah, i think you hear when you talk with people who were around then, and i should say up front i was not. i wasn't born till three years later here in the city. but of course members of my family, and i know lots of people.
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you hear this same sort of tone of tension in their voices, even today, about the things that they saw and the things that they experienced. i mean, this is 50 years later. and you can hear in her voice the sadness, almost, at the things that she saw. tanks rolling down the street. or the fear or the uncertainty about these guardsmen, you know, propositioning her. there was all kinds of stuff going on during those days here in the city that really changed people's lives. it changed who they were. and yeah, we've come a long way in 50 years. lots has happened. lots has gotten better. some stuff's gotten worse, some stuff hasn't changed at all. but people who were here still carry all of that weight with them a half century later. >> we heard earlier from a caller about the possibility that you could have had these incidents happen but you could
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live in a certain area of detroit, they would never know what was going on. why was that? >> there was a blackout, first of all. there was a media blackout which is -- it's hard to understand today or think of today, the idea that you could say, all right, we're not going to report on this at all. and that everybody would do it. for the first day, i mean, social media alone sort of shatters the construct there. but that made it hard for some people who were not seeing what was happening to understand what was happening. but then some other people who were seeing what was happening but not hearing anything about it i think were really confused. i see smoke. i hear sirens. but the radio doesn't say anything's going on. the television doesn't say anything's going on. i'm not sure what's happening. >> yeah, and with the media blackout, imagine what happens with the rumors. i mean, there were rumors that, you know, armed blacks were going to come down grand river or, you know, start attacking whites in their homes.
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there was rumors that -- and very possibly true stories of sexual assault going on on the part of outsider members of law enforcement, namely the national guard. who knows. imagine with the news blackout, nobody knows what's going on so it just creates even more tension and chaos. >> you had people in some suburbs, white people standing on roofs with shotguns, waiting for the mob, quote-unquote, of black people to come up the street toward their houses. >> if you go to the pages of "the free press" today, there is a column by anthony friamonte, one of those police officers in '67 who was at that mind pig as it was described. he talked about this incident as part of oral history that's being done here in detroit. we're going to have you listen to that and then we'll get our guests to respond. >> so we were told to enforce the law. and that was the law. you couldn't do anything in that venue after 2:30 in the morning and you had to be licensed.
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and now a blind pig, you could mostly to sell liquor. then the step up, there was prostitutes. and you can go in a room and do whatever -- whatever you wanted the prostitute to do. then there would be dice tables. and you would gamble. and you could do all that stuff in a blind pig. any time somebody took a cut of the money, it became illegal. and that gave us the right to break in to rescue the undercover officer that was inside the place. so we would give them -- after we saw him walk in the door we'd give him five minutes to make a wager or buy a drink and see the guy accept money. see him take his cut. gambling table take his cut. and then we would raid the place.
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and it was -- from '62 when i started to the riot, the night of the riot, july 23rd, 1967, a crowd would gather when we made a raid. it was something to look at, you know. but we never had a problem. but the country was getting tense. and things were happening all over. and a lot of the black community was unhappy. what was happening? because they felt they were segregated and they couldn't get employment that they wanted. and they were stuck in the apartments that had been cut up and one apartment became two and there was just a few people had air conditioning and the hot summer nights. and they would go out on 12th street and linwood and dexter and they would go out to see what's happening. and it got out of hand. >> heather ann thompson, that was his description of a blind
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pig. how does that square to what history tells us and experience tells us? >> i think that was a really amazing rendition, accounting of exactly what happened. in essence, it was sort of entrapment in the sense that the police officer would go in and hope that something illegal happened so that a raid could then commence. but what's really notable, of course, that is there's after-hours drinking establishments all over the city. right? they just weren't being policed. this is again resonant today. it isn't that the law wasn't being broken, right? i mean, as he says, we were just there to reinforce the law, to enforce the law. the issue is, where was the law always being enforced? and where was it not? so clearly people were gambling and having poker parties and selling and serving alcohol in the white community. but it was only when it was in the black community that the police would show up, where there would be an undercover officer, where there would be a raid, and everyone knew it, right? just like the drugs today, everyone knows that white folks,
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more white folks do drugs and sell drugs than black folks but that's not where the police is. imagine exactly the same situation in 1967. >> steven henderson? >> yeah, it's really interesting to hear him describe that so clearly 50 years later, again, like think of how clearly he can recall those things. the one thing he doesn't say is, as heather was saying, is that this was selectively enforced. the police knew about the blind pigs in the city. this was part of the culture. it was part of the teen culture in detroit. and it was true in black detroit, and it was true in white detroit. but the problems and the tension only existed between police and the black community in these things. and this was not, as he points out, the only time they'd done that. and the only time that they had decided to go on and raid a place. but i do think that, you know, that night, there was something about that raid, there was
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something about the behavior in that raid that probably escalated things faster and to a higher level. it did spill out into the street, as he said, and there were people out there. and that's what becomes the flash point. >> michael is from la mesa, california. says he was in the national guard. michael, good afternoon. >> caller: the only unit that was actually in the city at the time, everyone else was at summer camp. so we were there, there were 3 -- 300 of us. i lived on james street. went to coolidge high school. i knew the city. and i drove a two and a half-ton truck. and we were picking up prisoners. and as they were bring the prisoners to the trucks, the police would just beat them up. it was just unbelievable. i'll never forget. how really violent they were.
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i was actually shocked to see this going on in my city. it was really heartbreaking. >> so michael, was the national guard involved in that as well, as far as the roughing-up of african-americans then? or was it just the detroit police? >> caller: well, what i saw was just the detroit police. i was driving a truck and they were putting the prisoners on the back of the truck. so basically it was just the police -- the national guard, most of us were like in shock, i think. we weren't really involved. that was the beginning of it. so i don't think it was so much the national guard. i do -- but we were kind of out of control. we really had no idea what was going on and what we were supposed to do. >> steven henderson? >> yeah, the confusion and the fear, again, this is a guardsman who actually lived in the city. he was clearly in the minority of the troops that they sent. and i think the unfamiliarity
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with the city, with the tensions that already existed between detroit police and the black community, and with the situation, did lead to some pretty bad behavior. you know, as heather pointed out, one guardsman ended up shooting another at some point. probably out of confusion and that fear, you know. it just was not -- it was not something that got better because they were here. >> go ahead. >> well, there's -- i mean, what's really interesting to hear this gentleman share his story, we have this long history in the 20th century of these terrible decisions made in these moments of uprising to send in law enforcement who are not trained, are fearful, bring their own prejudices to the table, whether it's attica, whether it's philly, whether it's detroit. and to hear that in his voice, one of the results of this is that people are traumatized who participated in it as well. i mean, it's one thing to hear about it.
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it's another thing to see a fellow member of law enforcement seriously hurt someone else who's not doing anything. and in all of these rebellions of this period where there's a lot of bad guys and a lot good guys, there's a lot of really traumatized people. both members of law enforcement, and of course the community members that suffered the abuse. >> for those who were participating in the looting and everything else, what was the general reaction of the police? was it to sit back and watch it happen? ultimately did they take a stronger hand in trying to stop it? what does history tell us about that? >> yeah, i mean, they were very aggressive. this is where the reported 43 deaths come from. i say reported because i think most of us believe that number was quite a bit higher. where all the injuries come from. i mean, there are pictures and there is film footage of the kind of brutality that was inflicted on people who were caught, quote-unquote, looting during those days. and there was this sense, if you
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talk to people who were in the dpd at the time, there was this sense of almost revenge. that was being pursued there. that there was an embarrassment on their part, that they had lost control. and that things hat had got to know where they were and they wanted to show they could get control back. one of the ways they did that was through extreme violence. >> is it amazing to think with all the presence there, it took five days to bring some type of end to what was going on? >> yes, when you consider how they handled it, which was shooting out street lights, you know. not -- creating a situation where there's so much gunfire that members of the fire department cannot get to or want to get to burning buildings. and a situation where inside of their homes are too terrified to
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come out. so imagine that really it's the decisions of how to handle that it just make this thing go on and on and on. >> this is kim from milford, michigan. hi there, go ahead. >> caller: hi. i'm glad heather just said that about the fireman because my father was a fireman during the riots. the day the riot started we were at a pool party and all the firemen had to leave and it was just us kids. our moms left there. they all had to leave. and my dad was shot at while he was trying to put out fires. they even had molotov cocktails thrown at them. my grandfather was fire chief of the water division. i mean, it was difficult for the firefighters to do their jobs and -- with being shot at and having molotov cocktails thrown at. we lived in the northwest side of detroit near eight mile and burg road so there wasn't any of that happening where we lived, but it was very traumatic. i didn't see my dad for probably about four or five days.
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and we knew what was going on. and that's really all i wanted to say is that it was difficult for the firemen. and i'm sure for the policemen. you know, they were trying to do this are jobs and they were getting shot at and molotov cocktails thrown at them. >> kim from michigan, thanks for your call. steven henderson, we had a chance to shoot video of 12th and clairmont, rosa parks boulevard now. give a sense of what that neighborhood was like. we see a lot of green space where the blind pig incident took place. give us a sense what was going on around that neighborhood. put some perspective there. >> 50 years ago? >> yes. >> there was a commercial center on the near west side. lots of businesses, lots of jewish-owned businesses along that stretch. lots of african-american-owned businesses along that stretch. and it was becoming, like much of the city was changing demographically. there were more and more african-americans moving into that area. but the density i think is the
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thing that's the starkest contrast. i mean, every lot along that stretch had a store on it. on 12th street. each of the residential streets had, you know, homes. home after home after home. if you go there now, as you point out, it's pretty green. it's pretty barren. we don't have that kind of density in almost any part of the city anymore. and that's so -- and that's one of the things that this did change about detroit. it sends us on this downward spiral that it already started, but it accelerates it in a way that empties big parts of the city. >> heather ann thompson, no sense of recovery in that area from this incident? >> well, it's really -- it's a really mixed legacy. it's interesting. people think about this uprising as the moment when, for example, white folks just flee the city in droves. and in fact, that's not actually the case. for the next five years, there's
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a real contest over who's going to run the city, is the city going to remedy itself, is it going to desegregate the police department, or is it going to double down on law enforcement? this all comes to a head in 1973 and the mayoral election, which incidentally is between a black mayoral candidate and the chief of police who had created that s.t.r.e.s.s. unit we just discussed. and when white folks lose that election, but at the end. day there's an abandonment but that doesn't happen for five years. when it happens the tax base leaves, you know, the businesses leave. so when we look at those empty fields, on the one hand we're inclined to say that's because of the uprising when, in fact, it's the decisions made afterwards. the other thing is when we look at those empty fields. we forget that detroit still has over 700,000 human beings living in it, overwhelming black human
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beings and that -- that means that this city is not just empty for people to come in and develop only in the snazzier parts of the city. this is still a city with a whole lot of children and old people and a whole lot of families. >> let's go to vern. he's from detroit. hi. >> i would like to ask the professor. as a kaz tech grad, i'd like to know if you'd be interested in writing a book of those involved in the riot. the police, he's still alive. there's a doctor, cynthia flemmicing, she's in the class of '67. she is doing research. carolyn kill patrick, for example,. she has the notes from the
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people's tribune that occurred after the motel incident. ike mckinnon also, so is the chief of police, james pree. and geraldine served on the 35th district court and now her daughter is also on 35th district court. now she is also a kaz tech grad. so that's what i would be interested in. and would you be interested in writing and interviewing these persons? >> thanks for the roll call. it was pretty impressive. >> first of all, let me just say go technicians. because that is kaz tech. no matter where i go to talk to, there's always a kaz tech. >> what is kaz tech?
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>> it's one of the most important high schools in the city of detroit. and it was there from the beginning. it still exists as one of the detroit high schools. and it does have a long illustrous pedigree of folks that graduated from it. i'll definitely consider that. in the meantime, though, i did write a book, a lot about this period. i think you'll find a lot of these folks are in there or at least referenced in there. but what she's really speaking to there is this incredible detroit pride still, this incredible spirit of detroit still. and even in those moments of trauma and crisis, detroit never went away. detroit never disappeared and collapsed. >> right. does the younger set of detroit understand what happened in '67? do they get that sense of history in place? >> i'm not sure. so much of it we've tried for a
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really long time to be honest to push behind us. ten years ago when we had the 40th anniversary, had a conversation with the mayor at the time, also a kaz tech grad, like his father about the riots. and we were talking about he and i were born the same year in 1970, grew up in the wake of all of this. and we talked about how we didn't see it was the thing shaping all our children's detroit, all our children's future. and i think now that seems like a little bit of wishful thinking. it's a little bit of naivety on both of our parts to say this didn't matter 40 years later, 50 years later. it seems like it matters more than it did four years ago, ten years ago. >> it's come full circle. it's resonating now.
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my students at michigan for example, i do a history of detroit class and they don't necessarily know this history but they are deeply interested in it. not because it's just history but because it resonates with them. a part of them is like oh, that could be today. >> beth, thanks for calling. >> hi, guys. this is really interesting. i'm a native detroiter. i was born and raised there. i'm also a graduate of kaz technical high school. i used to take an hour bus each way back and forth. >> me too. the grand river bus. >> caller: and i was in high school during '67 and i lived on eight mile and we lived about roughly a mile or less from the armory and i remember hearing the trucks and i thought it was also tanks coming down eight mile and it was kind of -- kind
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of scary hearing all that coming through and just a couple of things. when i used to go driving in detroit like around the wane state area and often times we've be black and white in the car because my -- my circle of friends and family is always been black, white, all kinds of different people grew up around and we had the police stop us for just a light being out, a taillight being out. i went to the university of michigan and i was driving a car, again we were black and white in a car and we with got stopped by the police in ann arbor and it was pretty scary being stopped by them. >> what would you like our guests to address? >> i just wanted to kind of agree with them, me and my friends and my family. we didn't see this as a riot either.
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we saw it as a rebellion because there was so much inequality, economic inequality in different neighborhoods in the city. so i'm not really sure -- >> beth, thank you for your story, really appreciate it. anything you want to take away from that. >> again, anyone who was a certain age in this city has at least the same kind of memories growing up and learning how to navigate these things. learning how to deal with police behavior that's not entirely appropriate. i can remember when i was 16, this is in the mid-1980s here in detroit, the number of times i would be pulled over because i was driving a car that looked new or looked expensive even though it wasn't. and they searched the car, searched the trunk, sometimes take everything out looking for
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whatever it was they thought. i mean this is a common experience for people here in the city. and we can all sort of remember that. >> and i like her comment also to remind us. she mentioned she was often in cars with black kids and white kids. and i think that's another part of this story we haven't really mentioned, which was as divided as this city was, there were a lot of progressive white folks in this city who considered themselves allies to fight against police brutality, show up against s.t.r.e.s. and file lawsuits and who didn't leave the city. i know there were a lot of white families who stayed in the city as a real self-conscious decision to not flee. and that's why i went to cass. but i think we need to remember that, too, it wasn't all about racial tension. but it certainly was about
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racial tension between police and community. and certainly in some white neighborhoods it was a problem. >> we're going to hear from robert from georgia next. you're on. go ahead. you're on. >> caller: thank you. several things i want to say. i've been watching this show for about an hour. i'd like to say in '67 i watched the riots on tv, nine years old. exactly ten years later i was laid off from my dream job from a large company. and i had someone -- they all come up with all these reasons but i had someone i knew, he said, look, i'll tell you. you and the rest of the them were laid off because the federal government told us if we did not have a certain percentage of minority employment we would lose our federal contract. now, right now i live in a 60--year-old subdivision for the
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first years or so it was all white, but now there are all races in this subdivision. so my question is how can someone who's young today, how can they say they cannot make it based on something that happened to their family 150 years ago, and one more comment i'd like to make who my son who was a white male was pulled over two nights ago by police because he had a low beam out. so i think things have really changed in the past 50 years. but my main question is how can you say you can't make it today based on something that happened to your family 150 years ago? >> robert, thank you. steven henderson, start us off. >> for starters, yes, it's true slavery ended 150 years ago, but the discrimination that's baked into our system continues even
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today. i tell the story all the time about my father, not somebody i read about in a book somewhere, not some ancient relative. my father was born in 1933 in mississippi. goes off to fight in the korean war. comes home to a mississippi where he can't sit at a lunch counter where he's not allowed to vote, where he does not get to participate in the g.i. bills that are offered to people coming back from war to go to college where he can't get the home loans that are offered as they're building, you know, big suburbs and things. these are the things that shaped his economic life. i'm his son. how could it not have any effect on me? no question there's tremendous opportunity available now for people that there wasn't 50 years ago or 150 years ago but we still are dealing with a nation with whose fundamental
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infrastructure is about inequality. it is about saying that african-americans could not be equal and it's really difficult -- i get everything that the caller is saying about his personal frustration with the circumstances, but you have to put that in a much larger context of the country we live in. >> and i also just wanted to add to that two things. one, i'm always sorry to hear when people lose their jobs that the employer tells them it's because some black person got their job. we need to know our history, and we need to know that employers throughout american history when they've wanted to down size, when they've wanted to cut wages, they've pitted black workers against white workers. and so i don't know the exact circumstances of this caller's employment, but i know there's this long history of this not being true but white workers being made to feel very resentful about black employment.
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the other thing that his son was pulled over, that was my point. the youth are being criminalized in general. but the final thing i want to say as a white person that grew up in detroit and writes a lot about race, i do think that there's this -- we are in a moment in american history where white people need to start being much more honest about the way in which we are privileged even if we're not in a privileged position ourselves. so as to say we may not be making a million dollars but be do know it makes a difference when you're pulled over by a police officer versus black. we do know about the hiring prejudices, we do know that and when white folks get together they're very honest about that among themselves. it's really important that we start -- we start being more honest about this publicly. >> let's hear from rick in stock bridge, georgia. >> yes, thank you.
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four years old on pasadena, i remember diving up under the bed, ducking bullets with my brothers and my cousins and my sister and my family and i'm -- you hear the stories about how the white people would sick their dogs on my brothers and them going to school, so -- or turn their water sprinklers on so the indian mothers and the black mothers had to teach their kids underground in the basement. because they couldn't get to school. okay, now coming up through the school system, yrm getting a summer job. and one of those jobs was the police cadet and -- but at that point i was kind of getting the understanding of either you're going to be part of the problem
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or be part of the solution. i remember graduating from grand river as the police cadet. and i notice there's an armory right there on grand river -- and i don't know the corner but there's an armory. and on the other one -- on eight mile there was another armory. why was these armories -- >> right. right. >> and then now i'm getting ready to graduate from high school and on graduation day we're walking down the hall, we're going to see our teachers and saying, you know, bye and getting some wisdom before we leave and this teacher who i never had but i hear my brothers and other friends talk about this teacher and other teachers. this teacher had the gull, had the nerve to put his middle finger up at us -- i was 18, a
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child. but i turned around and laughed at him because i had more man to be able to laugh at him though it passed me off than he was in his cowardly way. black leaders almost have a -- ms. thompson is right. being more honest about how cowardly he has become and the covertness of it all from then to now after i went into the military and saw that my own white authorities figures were the one blocking our promotions and i called home and said, this is racist. and my mom said it's racist everywhere in america. >> thanks for giving us your story and your perspective. steven henderson talked about this idea of moving forward and making the best of this situation. what did you take from that? >> if you take the two last callers together one of the real issues we have is the idea of it has to be the either/or.
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the first caller believes that, well, because i experienced things that unfair black people have nothing to complain about. the second caller is trying to explain it's different. it's different being african-american and the experiences you'll have. but those two perspectives are not mutually exclusive. we don't have to shout one side down to sort of acknowledge the other. and that's the difficulty i think in the racial discussion today is that the instinct is to say that the other side just has no legitimacy at all. and that's why we can't get past all of this. >> so where do we go from here as far as -- i know it's not a simple question to answer in the final minutes of this segment -- but how does detroit move forward? >> what do you think, steven? >> i actually think detroit is
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moving forward in fits and starts. it's not even, not entirely just the way that change is coming for the city. but this is a different place today than it was ten years ago three years ago. >> yeah, there's no comparison between the two. we still make sure everyone benefits and the investment that's coming makes it way around. but i don't think there's any question we're headed in the right direction. >> if you go to the pages of the detroit free press today, there's a story. steve henderson you talk about your instance and the home you grew up, tell us how it relates to the story today? >> sure. the neighborhood i grew up in is just blocks from the 10th precinct where people arrested by the blind pig were arrested. it's a neighborhood that's been forgotten. one of the neighborhoods being
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forgotten. it had tremendous disinvestment, depopulation. there's hardly any schools left even in the neighborhood. my child home sat empty was and stripped for several years. and i decided that i couldn't have that go on forever. so i started a non-profit that has taken the house partnering with a local college to make it a writers residence and focus on change from within for the neighborhood. the idea is not to change the neighborhood to make it appealing necessarily to other people, but to make it better for the folks who are there. and we had a soft opening yesterday of my house. we're onto several other houses on the block. and hopefully in a few years, we'll turn the corner. >> heather thompson, how are we moving forward? >> well, i think steven's story is about how just it's not just investors coming in, it's also
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detroiters investing in the city. and i think moving forward we have a lot of hopeful signs. the historian in me, though, says we really need to be cautious as well. signs. the historian in me says we need to be cautious as well. we need to once and for all deal with the question of racial inequality in this city and everything from job training to mortgages to access to water, access to schools. good schools, if we can do that, detroit will be an amazing place again. if we don't we proceed at our peril. we have got to get this right. . we can't solve every social problem in america's cities including detroit through criminalizing them. through the criminal justice system. we can do it differently. the way to do it, i'm hopeful, but cautious.
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>> heather anne thompson, thank you for your time. steven anderson, of the detroit free press, thank you for your time. we will look back at what took place in detroit, michigan 50 years ago. a since of oral history about the events that have day. we spoke with a man at the forefront of making sure people understand the story and what went on at the time. we'll hear from him and continue our discussion of detroit, 1967. >> i'm the project director of detroit 67. we're at the corner of 12th and clairemont street. this is the place where many people believe the rebellion, uprising in detroit started. detroit '67 is a mull tay year
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community engagement program that's designed to bring people together so people can find their role in the present to inspire the future. it's been 50 years since the tragic week in 1967 that rocked detroit and brought the nation's eyes to the attention of what's happening in america. with regard to civil unrest, police brutality. . what we're doing is trying to give people an opportunity to do three things, engage around the topic. have a level of inflexion with the blockbuster exhibition, but more importantly, inspire people to a level of action to create a better future. when the year 2016 comes around, there's a different story being told. this is a reminder of what
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happened in 1967. >> the common knowledge, there was a blind pig, which is an after hours facility, that was raided over here at the corner of 12th and clairemont. it came on the heels of years and years of unjust policing, and issues between the community and law enforcement, that spilled over. it wasn't something people planned. it was an instant. which is why people refer to it as a rebellion. they rebelled against a force that they felt was unfair. it spread into the streets where there was a lot of unrest. you look across the park now. it's hard to believe this was a once a thriving and booming business district. it really was, there were stores owned by black, white, you name it. a lot of people did business here, they didn't have to leave the community. a rock was thrown, glass was broken. looting occurred, fire started.
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it wasn't just black folks, it's one of the most integrated incidents, spread across the city. it was something that spread. at that particular time in the 1960s, the deadliest uprising or unrest we had in america. it was a lot of lives lost, a lot of arrests, for some people, it divided us further than we already were. >> one of the reasons they decided to target this park, when we first started, we came over here, there was no hit rirks nothing to tell generations of young people, and even people who currently live here, the true story of what happened around here 50 years ago, we learned that in other parts of the world, they don't run from the history, they embrace what happened so you can use it as a case not to repeat it. to not do it glenn and not let it happen, what we've decided to do is work with the city of detroit and the state of michigan to put in a historical marker, with full context of
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what happened, but more importa importantly, to show a park can be a way forward for a community. not historical societies, not city government. but the people who had to live in these communities. this is their park, and we want history to be at the front of why it's valuable to our future. it's not a celebration, it's a level of memorialization, commemoration, and how we all together pivot to a point of moving forward, not past what happened, but moving the conversation forward, moving our actions forward, the engagement forward collectively, and showing how, if we're truly going to move forward together, the community has to be involved. so we're coming to their place, and we're hoping that we can be a part of this community, if not just for today, but moving forward for the rest of our history. >> i hope people walk away with a few things. understanding how we got to 67. what happened here and around the community during that time.
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this is still an on going narrative. if we don't find a way forward, it's going to repeat the histories of the past. if a physical space like a park can be something that triggers that, and get people engage d that's what we're looking for. how history is relevant to a community's presence. >> there are other kpoen enthes we launched. the hiss tore achal society has launched a place making initiative. and what it is is using gordon park as a pilot, to provide
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micro grants to organizations around the community top do lqc place making projects, to demonstrate in context of everything that was destroyed 50 years ago, how we can build and grow and develop things in our communities. whether it be a park, a playground, something to bring us together and not separate us. >> you're watching american history tv on c-span three, we're back live in the detroit free press newsroom. a police raid on an illegal bar known locally as a blind pig, here to continue our conversation about that, two new guests, isaiah mckinnon. and tim kiske. can we start with you, you were a police officer back in 1967, could you give your perspective
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on what happened on this day 50 years ago? >> 50 years ago this day, and probably at this time, i was in the heat of all the things that were going on. it was extremely hot and humid. we had loads and loads of people on the street that were looting. we had at that time, probably 5500 police officers, we had probably 100 or less that were african-american. but it was such an incredible time. some people were enjoying the spectacle of what was going on. others were looting. but it was a very difficult time for everyone, because of the fact that we had assumed in detroit this wasn't going to happen. that things were okay. eventually i worked for mayor kafanov. people assumed it wasn't going to happen. the police department was unprepared to handle the
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situation. of things that occurred in 1967. >> what do you think that was? >> the police department assumed that everybody was happy, but they did not and had not looked at what had occurred that precipitated this series of incidents. then we had horrible police community relations. we had horrible relationships with the black communities in particular. a lot of people had been beaten up, i was one of those people who was severely beaten up by the police. this was commonplace in detroit for the police department. it was probably around that time that the naacp attempted to integrate the police department. and they went on strike in essence. >> they had a number of people who had been shot or killed by the police. all these things festered in
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addition to pedro. we had a great number of people who moved up from the south who wanted to get jobs here in detroit. things were probably as bad here as they were in the south. they were really frustrated in terms of things that were going on. >> if you want to continue on with your calls to them, it's 202-748-8800. 202-748-8901 for the pacific and mountain time zones. if you live in detroit or were part of what happened back then. tim kiske. we referenced this earlier, was everyone aware of what was going on during the riots? >> yeah, well, in the newsrooms, yes, but there was a blackout that first day. mayor kafanov, we had pretty good press relations. in fact the police chief -- he
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got on the horn, i remember talking to one of the former news 2krek9ers on the golf courses. gets a phone call, and says, can you sit on this thing. i think we can put this thing down. if you go live with all of this it's not going to help. a lot of people bought into that. the first day it became strange. the tigers were playing their ancient enemies. full house. the broadcaster gets a call from the general manager saying, under no circumstances are you to make any reference whatsoever, to the smoke over the left field fence, which by the way in hindsight -- what do you do? do you -- if you go on the loud speaker and say, excuse me, there's a riot going on, please exit gracefully. yeah, people are going to exit gracefully. if this thing had gone away,
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there had been an incident the year before on the east side, which had been put down after a couple nights, the news 2krek9ers may have been hailed for their civic responsibility. and strangely enough. it was a tv station across the river in windsor, canada, who first broke this at 2:00 in the afternoon, they set up a camera on the river, you could see all the smoke, they said, well, something's going on over there. all we can tell you is this is what it looks like. people sat on it for the day. >> one of the pieces you'll have if what folks could see at the time. not of much awareness of what was going on back then. >> i think people left that baseball game. one of my former history
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professors remembers driving up in the smoke with his family going, what's going on here. . pretty soon, everybody found out. >> what do you think as far as -- there were a lot of contributing factors that led to it. what about the police's role. >> i had been part of the cres s that would go into these blind pigs and raid these after our places we would have four men that would go in and maybe we would arrest 50, 60 people without incident because of things that occurred in the country. that i think there are people who wanted to get things started. and this was the right place at the right time and maybe the wrong place at the wrong time. but again, the law enforcement
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community was not prepared to handle this, once it started it was out of control. in regard to the -- what tim just said, you know, there were so many fires that were going on, it was impossible not to see this. someone, whether they were sitting at the baseball game or wherever it might be, you had to see the smoke. it was truly beyond one's belief, the number of stores and places that were on fire, you would see all the smoke and the fire. you heard the fire engines all the time, the police cars that were screaming and so forth. it was very chaotic. >> if you want to give us a call, do so. >> thank you for having me on the show. we lived on a street called tracy and 7 mile. we were one of two black families in an all white neighborhood.
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one of the things that always sticks out in my mind. whenever i look at the old film footage, is the national guard with the bayonets with their rifles, which reminds me of something you would use in a true war zone. what that did to a lot of the people on the -- residents of detroit also, if you could speak on the issue of red lining. i worked in television news for a long time, so i have a very broad perspective of the riots and the history of this country. >> you want to start? >> yeah. i grew up on the east side, there was a dividing line conner. i did not have a single african-american student in that class. i went to a high school, once again no african-americans
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whatsoever, this was not healthy at all. and i think we wonder what -- why the goofy race relations. it was because of stuff like that. so when the commission came out and talked about separate societies, i think that was true, that's changed a lot. my son went to one of the high schools, that was previously all white. no problems, but back then, i mean, it was -- the scary part, that red lining part, was contributed to the problem. >> very few people people were saying what was going on. we were called investigative of rest. they would say a say a person
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committed a crime. any black man could be locked over a weekend. 100 people were arrested that weekend. you had the detroit police department proud of this. there was an attempt to integrate the department to stop this. eventually it did stop. it was out of control with that. in regards to the national guard. i worked with these guys during the rebellion, unfortunately, the national guards people were not looked upon as anyone who could do the job. they were looked upon as weekend warriors. there was a lack of respect for them. i saw them with their bayonets on their guns and so forth fp they were people who were not trained either. neither one of us were trained on how to handle these situations.
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they didn't know how to handle this, nor were they fully equipped to deal with these kinds of situations. once the 101st got in, they said, these guys skrauft back from the war. and they're different. you'll see they did very little shooting in comparison to the national guard and dpd. >> we moved right over the city line. it was strange to see they used the church parking lot as a turnaround spot it's jars to sit there and say, wait a minute, this is detroit, has it come to this? a lot of people, that's their memory. the tanks, anyone who saw a tank rolling down the street, wherever it was they're not going to forget it.
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>> to come back to my city, or our city, and to see tanks roll down the street, and be a part of this and say, wait a minute, there's some serious problems that are existing, what are we doing about it? >> i keep going back to the fact that there had been a history of problems that existed. there's very little being done about it. people wanted to sweep this under the rug. this is something that they can take care of, meaning someone else or the minority community. >> you can call on the phone lines to ask our quest questions. you can tweet us or post on our facebook page. we have a facebook question from peter, he says, are there any historical resources on the people who died in detroit? >> well, there's one in
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particular, the detroit free press did a piece called 43 who died. most people thought they were looters snipers. free press did a thorough investigation, and found out that more than half were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. bullets were flying, sometimes it was the bullet was to whom it may concern. it was that bad. >> it was an unfortunate set of circumstances. people could dehumanize someone. what i saw, as a police officer, i was usually the one black officer with a series of white officers, the things they would say. for instance, there was a sergeant that was assigned with
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11 officer, i'm the one white officer. we're driving down lin wood avenue and people are loots, if i -- i'm going to use the word that he used. so we're driving down the street, the sergeant stops the three cars. everybody out. we had our bayonets. and we're standing out in the middle of the street. he yells to this -- thousands of people, all you nigers get off the street. i'm going oh, my god, i'm going to die. i lived through vietnam, i lived through being shot at before, this is crazy. all the police officers looked at me, and most of the black people were looking at me too, going, this guy's got to be out of his mind. they looked at him and said, what did you say? all you niggers get off the street. they started throwing bottles and bricks at us. we jumped in our car and took
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off. he's got to be out of his mind, does he realize what he said? that was commonplace. you think about this, if he was saying that to hundreds of black people on the street, what were other people saying at this time. and so insight. >> let's hear from anton, in rocky river, ohio, go ahead. >> hello, i want to give my perspective on this. the economical impact it had after the uprising. i'm not going to term it -- we did not trust black people, we did not trust white officers, and especially white male officers. because engagement with them was always violent. you see that today with kids.
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the psychological impact. it makes a whole neighborhood frightened. of the police. we never have a good nature or good will toward them. i think we started recognizing the look in ink's humanity, that's what i got to say. >> let's start with the economic forces going in? >> huge. there were a couple things, a lot of african-american businesses on hastings street, which gets wiped out. it's got a classic essay. marcia fill pot, her dad owned an iconic music store. joe's music shop. >> fantastic place, he ends up on 12th street, gets burned out. it killed him. you talk to marcia, she did a great essay about this, he drank himself to death. i think that story got repeated over and over and over again.
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>> i think that there's been a lot of talk over the last couple decades about african-american capitalists and why that's important. this didn't help. it trashed a lot of african-american businesses. and white businesses too. and by the way, i want to not inflate something, my dad owned a jewelry store on the east side. he left in 1969 not because of this because a junkie came in with a gun. this had nothing to do with the riot, or race, if you want to know the truth. it just became crazy. that's not good. >> i'm glad you mentioned marcia, she's my neighbor. we talk about this quite often. this was not a race riot. this was an equal opportunity riot. you would see more and more people looting, i think it was
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an exceptional opportunity for people to do things. but doing the course of this the first two days or so. people would go into stores, they would break windows and things like that, it was almost comical. for instance, we're driving down the street, and we see this white cadillac convertible. and there's two african-american men in the front seat, both of them have portable tv's and one guy's driving with a portable tv, and two guys, black guys, they have a sofa on the back of the convertible. it's comical almost, they were sitting there on the sofa, both of them had tv's, they looked at us, and we looked at them. wen cot arrest that many people, each car could probably get one or two people in the car, wungsz we arrested those people. we would go in and take them to the station, and people would go back and do what they were doing
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in terms of looting. it was almost comical the things that were going on. because again, we just didn't have the -- >> have we played the conrad mallet tape yet? >> i don't think so. >> i don't want to do a spoiler alert, he describes watching this, a guy walking out with ten hats, we lived above the jewelry store, we got to knock down the door at 4:30 monday morning, from cops saying, we don't know what's going to happen on the east side how bad this thing is going to get. my enduring memory is that monday morning, loading every last watch, every last diamond into the back of our station wagon. >> a lot of the business people took to staying in their businesses, they would arm themselves. it saved a great number of them. in fact, we had the first wave of asian business people who
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would put on their windows, not to be demeaning, but as black people put soul brother. koreans would put soul brother too, and some were protected that way. we see this and hope it never happens again. we look at the meanness that was there by some people, but also the dehumanization of what occurred. >> let's hear from cheryl in ft. lauderdale, florida, thanks for calling. >> let me compliment you on a job you all are doing. my cousin worked for 40 years at the detroit free press and was very proud. i'm sitting here emotional and i have tears in my eyes. not just because of the horrible memories but because i miss my
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hometown so much. i've lived in ft. lauderdale florida, but i was born and raised in detroit, michigan. whenever i meet anybody from detroit. i always feel warm and fuzzy. detroiters are so special. and i'm so proud to be from detroit. i graduated from wayne state university. i taught school in detroit before i moved to florida. my father had a big business and store on six mile road in the '60s. i saw it detroit detroit, i remember my father rebuilding the business. i wondered when it would all d end. this is an emotional call, this is a very couple of emotional
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hours for me. but i'm so glad i'm able to watch this and be able to say that i'm from detroit. and thank you so much for listening to me and for the great job you're doing. >> thanks. >> cheryl, thank you. >> she mentioned, when will it all end. i remember sitting on our new front porch monday, we're listening to the gunfire, there was a lot going on. that was the thing, my brother damion, who was four years younger, even then sitting there saying, we got out in time. but i'm thinking what's next? and then the next year, everyone's wondering, okay, is this going to light up and fire again? and nobody knew. it's almost like the fear kept on going. >> because of dr. king's assassination. >> that was only one of many
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things. there were a lot of things going on, i think that 5 to 10 year period is really key in the city's history. our reaction to all of this, and what we're going to do next. >> that was always a fear. what did we do? we had the new detroit that started up. and we had people come in that tried to do -- whether it was new detroit or the other businesses that started up in detroit because of that. but there was always skepticism. and we had people who left detroit who went -- they went to mississippi and were killed. viola -- >> yeah, there were people who left detroit to go and help with the civil rights movement.
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so many of those people were active here, but they went to other places. we had people in the seminary who went out into the street to try to help. we had ministers and priests who went out into the street to get people to understand what's best for the city and what's best for them to assist the city in whatever it might be, i think unfortunately. we had a lot of people that plate the blame game, they burned their houses down, let they rebuild in 1953, we had close to a million 900,000 people people were still leaving, my family could not find a place to live because of race about all these things were a part of what we had to live with and try to remedy.
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>> this is griggs who lives in livonia michigan, hi. >> i was enjoying your program. i went to central high school. and during the riot. there were troops, national guard troops. it was my chance to go get training. but i couldn't do it because the riots broke out. i turned 17 that year, so i wasn't a kid, but a grown man, and my mother didn't play that looting stuff, if i had stole something, i couldn't have brought it back to the house, i just stood and watched.
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you want to blame anyone. it was the fault of the white could bes, they would come through the neighborhood. they had a big board they would call them, and they would just bring havoc on us. it wasn't no fun, we couldn't do anything. it turned a lot of people to the criminal mind. if i scant do anything right, let's do something wrong. there were some places -- there wasn't nothing to be coming in there, tearing up stuff and arresting people for it. people were just drinking, having fun. and the like. >> got you, greg scott. thank you very much. police chief talked about a couple -- he said, the festive nature of what was going on, as far as the looting was concerned. >> it truly was. >> he's a central grad.
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we would always play central, and they would beat us. it really was festive the first couple days. people would look at us and smile. they knew we couldn't arrest them. most of the things that happened were probably minor things, people who owned the businesses, they would try to protect as much as they could. you would see kids going in and grabbing things. the other part of this, as he said, some parents stopped their kids from bringing stolen stuff to their places. i saw this. i saw mothers in particular, grab their sons and daughters who had stolen something, and tried to take it home, would literally beat the heck out of their kids on the street and say, take that stuff back. that was something we should really talk about, because we had some parents who did this. >> talk about how ugly it got.
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i heard over and over again, for the first couple days, it was festive, after that, it was frightening. i have an old friend who spent the last part of the riot in her bathtub, that was the safest place in the house, reading books. it was that frightening because as i mentioned, bullets are flying everywhere. nobody knew what was going to happen next. it was out of control. >> there is not as much sniper fire as reported. we were shooting -- when you shoot a bullet up, it's going to go some place. and so we could hear and see
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bullets. the assumption was, people were shoots at us. no there was not. as you rode with people who were frightened. petrified. and they would sigh someone in a window, and start shooting at them. thank god the people i rode with didn't hit anyone, i remember specifically, we're on west chicago, and this guy with this machine gun starts shooting out this window, i said what are you doing? he said, there's somebody up in the window, there was somebody up in the window, it was a kid. thank god he missed the kid, he tore the house up.
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>> 43 who died, a 4-year-old girl there was sniper fire, her uncle is sitting next to her, he lights up a cigarette. the national guard lit the place up and took her out. it was unclear how much sniper fire there was. >> when he mentioned the national guard, we had probably hundreds of officers there at some point. because there was -- i guess they had to figure some place we were going to be. i remember specifically there was a helicopter flying over, and they told us there were two guys on the roof across the
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street who had weapons. and that was the one case we could say specifically that people were armed. i think most of these instances that was not necessarily so. >> let's hear from deanne in macon, georgia. hi. >> hi. >> yes, i'm calling, i'm a native of detroit. i'm in georgia now, i was 15 years old, during 1967 riot at the fox theater i was at when they sent us home, because the riot had started. one comment about the blind pig, i'm a retired nurse. and i met many people during my job, and one particular patient i talked with she was there at the blind pig, during the raid, and they said in a a soldier was home from vietnam on leave and they were giving him a party
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there at the blind pig when it got raided. they raided it, but during the raid a pregnant woman was knocked down the stairs by the police. and that's when it got all out of hand. and i have been watching your program, and i just wanted to make that comment and one more for my cousin who passed ronald, who was working at the chrysler plant during the 1967 riots, he had to get a pass to go to work. and on his way to work, he was shot by the police or the national guard. they thought he was dead, they took him out to below.
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they had a makeship mooring out there. they said 43 people died. they thought he was dead until they started packing him. when they packed him, he woke up, and he lived for another 25 years. he died from cancer. he had buckshot in his head. but the state -- >> deanne, thank you so much for that story. is there anything you want to add, tim? >> no, there are all kinds of rumors about people being shoved down the sewers, the free press went into the sewers. >> to her thought that it's a higher number than 43. >> i'm not sure. i don't think so. if somebody got killed and shoved down a sewer there would ultimately be a missing person's report. i think that sounds about right.
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you were closer to it than i was. >> since 1967 there have been more rumors that people were killed. there were a lot of people shot. but i don't think so, if we can find the bodies, usually if there's someone that's missing, there's some kind of report on that, that wasn't the case. i feel for this lady, though. >> this is gene in illinois. >> i want to say, chief mckin n mckinnon, i used to work with your sister, always a sweetheart. i was 9 years old at the time of the riot. lived across the street from a gas station. i remember the national guard coming down the street in tanks, batons out, positioned in front of our home, we had to sleep in the bathroom many a night because of the riots.
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they would come to the house and have for receipts. we had a friend that would bring us food, because we couldn't get out. i remember them asking us for receipts. it was a really -- thinking about it today, i happened to look on and see chief mckinnon, it's just -- it was a really trying time. i can remember it like it was yesterday as a 9-year-old. i remember our neighbors, we lived right there, one of the most influential areas in the city right now, we lived on glenn court, which was considered the hood. but it was middle class families, two families, it was a solid neighborhood again until the drugs and the riots decimated the area. i have a friend who lives there now. it looked like a jungle.
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jean, please don't say shame on my city. we're happy some of the changes we're making. please don't say shame on my city. i was fortunate enough to become deputy mayor. certainly there have been a great number of things that occurred. you come back and see the significant changes that are being made. and as we say, we started at one location, and moved from the center out, we're trying to do that, and trying to recruit more people to come into the city. mr. gilbert has said that he wants to make detroit the tech town of the midwest. i think that's important he's trying to do that. look at the fact that those buildings you saw downtown were unoccupied for a long period of
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time. now they're occupied. we're seeing, not only in that area, center city, and some places in the neighborhoods there are -- there are buildings that are being built, businesses moving to those areas, and people are moving back into the city. that's important. please, please, please, don't say shame on my city, i love it, i've been here since 1953, we're trying to do tremendous things. when i became deputy mayor. it's important to understand, the -- detroit was the worst place in the world to have a heart attack, the worst place. the response time was in 20 minutes, now we're down to 6 or 7 minutes, that was important, but people had left, people would say, the last person out of detroit turn out the lights. my old neighborhood -- it was built in 1925. those homes really weren't -- no
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one was expecting these things to last forever. there's not much of it left, what do you do about that you can't just wave your arm and say, we're going to do this. this is a long time coming. >> john from san diego, california, you're next. >> i think the problem then was separation between the police, the teachers the people who were well paid and those that weren't. the problem in detroit is that the greatest separation now as it did then, and san diego's got the same problem. the median wage in detroit is 26,000. a police officer makes three times that amount. in san diego, it's five times. and we have a lot of problem with this separation.
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it's somewhat like fort apache, you have police, teachers, commuting into work, getting higher paid off the taxpayers, there's not a true interest awe gra grags, and it's more than racial. thank you for everything you're doing, i love detroit, i was there during the uprising. i love detroit. >> thanks, john. go ahead. >> you hit something, listen, we used to have residency. when residency occurred, detroit lost most of its populations in terms of city employees. we have black and white officers. and black and white people that have left the city. >> this has been most districtive to our city. this is very important people who live in the city tend to care more about the city. as the mayor and i, we drove around the city, and we could see all these vacant homes, we had probably 60,000 vacant
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homes, this takes a long term process to remedy a situation that's been going on for 60, 70 years, it's going to take us some time to do what we have to do to change this. >> my old neighborhood was already going down 50 years ago, it got worse. particularly during the 80s. no one's going to turning this around. auto factories are moving out. this has been going on since the '50s. >> the drug problem was so critical to our city, and probably a lot of cities. because detroit was not like most cities that have so many high rises, the drug problem caused us to be the murder capital of the world, it caused us to lose a number of police people and other people, we had to have a true renaissance of
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people that's concerned, not only about the city and people moving out but reading our community of the drug problems and the impact it had on so many young people and the educational process. >> what's your source of hone. what do you look to specifically as a source of hope? >> well, a couple things. first of all, i think 50 years later, we're talking. i think 10 years ago, i did stuff 40 years after -- people are talking about it, being honest about the problems, i think i'm starting to see -- i don't want to sound cynical. young people moving back my joke is, turn detroit around one vinyl record store at a time. well, there are other things that i -- i think a couple people say how much they love this city. in the end, a lot of people have
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left, we still care about it. we're discussing it. there are people who would never say they're from detroit. now people are saying, i'm from detroit, i want to be from detroit. and they're coming into the city and people are moving into the city. it's all races that are doing this, i think that's important. >> we're talking about this 50th year anniversary of what happened in 1967. to both of you, thank you very much. >> the university is in dearborn. >> thank you for collar if iing. we want to thank the detroit free press for letting us use their facility. we want to thank the detroit historical society for their help and input on this project as well.
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this is all taking place today. thank you for watching american history tv on c-span 3. you're watching american history tv. follow us on twitter @c-span history. and to keep up with the latest history news. on lectures and history. emery university professor, felix har court teaches a class on how conspiracy theorys about ufo's have shaped american culture. he guns in the late 1940s, and describes how public opinion about extraterrestrials changes over the course of the 20th century. often paralleling societal anxieties. this class is about

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